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Brief Published: 9 Jun 2016

Robotic Construction: Fabric-Cast Concrete

US-based designers Joseph Serafian and Ron Culver have developed a technique for casting concrete in fabric moulds stretched by robotic arms. The freeform results could lead to complex new architectural structures.

To create these flowing forms, a concrete fibreglass mixture is poured into Y-shaped sleeves made of Lycra, and then stretched into the desired shape using two dexterous Kuka robotic arms. Each element takes around 45 minutes to harden ­and once the concrete sets, the sleeves are stripped away. The shapes are then individually connected using 3D-printed bolts.

This is a considerable development on conventional concrete casting, which requires bespoke solid moulds to be made for each unique shape. The fabric moulds are low cost and easy to set up, allowing radical architectural forms to be rapidly prototyped. This makes the technique more dynamic in terms of speed, form and material sustainability.

At present, the ongoing Fabric Forms project can only create smaller, decorative elements. The designers say they are looking to enlarge the technique to make load-bearing elements and complete structures possible.

Read about fabric as inspiration for new products in Fabric Forms. For a look at how programmable tools are being used to create transformable, programmable and even bio-responsive products, see Personalising Product. See Super Materials: New Innovations for other groundbreaking manufacturing techniques.